aviation history

Some of SFO Museum’s #52 Objects

As far as we know, San Francisco International Airport (SFO) is one of just two airports in the country that has an onsite museum program accredited by the American Alliance of Museums. (Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport is the other one.)

Pretty much everything the SFO Museum displays in the terminals from its own collection or from a collection on loan is top-notch. But there are plenty of objects that never, or rarely, go on display. And lots of objects you might miss if you’re just passing through.

That’s why we’re delighted that for 2023, the SFO Museum is highlighting one “notable, unusual, interesting, or just plain fun” item from the collection each week.

Here’s what’s shown up so far.

Long Beach Airport Closes its Historic Terminal. Temporarily

Long Beach Airport Terminal circa 1962 – Courtesy of the airport

Over the past week, the Stuck at the Airport team has shared news of how Kansas City decided to replace an old terminal with a brand new one at Kansas City International Airport (MCI). And of a new museum in Atchison, Kansas dedicated to iconic aviator Amelia Earhart.

Today we share some news about Long Beach, which is keeping and preserving its historic Long Beach Airport (LGB) terminal. The airport, also known as Daugherty Field, is where Amelia Earhart took her first airplane ride in 1920.

Long Beach Airport Historic Terminal

The terminal building at Long Beach Airport was built in 1941 in the iconic Streamline Moderne Style. It is the oldest municipally-owned airport in California.

Designed by William Horace Austin and Kenneth Smith Wing, the groundbreaking for the Historic Terminal took place on Jan. 11, 1941, with the building scheduled to open on Dec. 8 of that year.

The Pearl Harbor attack on Dec. 7 delayed the opening, led to the cancellation of all commercial flights, and resulted in the building being painted in camouflage and used as lodging for soldiers and military equipment.

The formal opening occurred on April 25, 1942.

Now a Long Beach Historic Landmark, the terminal building is also home to recently restored mosaic masterpieces created by Grace Clements under the Works Progress Administration Federal Arts Project.

LGB Terminal Renovation Project

Starting this week, Long Beach Airport (LGB)’s Historic Terminal temporarily closes for a year-long renovation that will include a seismic retrofit and restoration of many of its classic 1941 design elements.

Preliminary renovation efforts began while the Historic Terminal was partially open to the public. But now, airport officials say, a full closure of the building is necessary to complete the renovation of the restrooms and building infrastructure, restoration of covered mosaic tiles, and other Art Deco design elements.

The restored terminal building is expected to reopen in early 2024 and is one piece of a multi-part terminal improvement program. Two major components were completed in the spring of 2022, including the new Ticketing Lobby and Checked Baggage Inspection System (CBIS) facility. A new Baggage Claim is currently under construction and scheduled to open in the coming months.

Phase I of the Terminal Area Improvement Program created an award-winning indoor-outdoor passenger concourse in 2012.

Museum Monday: Amelia Earhart Hangar Museum

Famed aviator Amelia Earhart was born in Atchison, Kansas on July 24, 1897, and lived there until 1908, when her family moved to Des Moines.

Today Atchison honors its most famous hometown hero with a wide variety of attractions.

Those include the Amelia Earhart Birthplace Museum, a life-size statue of Earhart in the arboretum known as the International Forest of Friendship, and the annual Amelia Earhart Festival, held the third weekend of July.

Atchison is also home to the Amelia Earhart Earthwork, a one-acre portrait created by Kansas artist Stan Herd in 1997 using plants, stone, and other materials.

Courtesy Kansas Tourism

New: Amelia Earhart Hangar Museum

The general aviation airport in Atchison is, no surprise, called the Amelia Earhart Memorial Airport.

And it now sits adjacent to the Amelia Earhart Hangar Museum which will have its grand opening on April 14, 2023.

The museum centerpiece is the world’s last remaining Lockheed Electra 10-E airplane.

And this plane is named Muriel, in honor of Amelia Earhart’s younger sister, Grace Muriel.

The fully restored Lockheed Electra is identical to the plane Earhart and navigator Fred Noonan were flying in 1937 when they disappeared during their ill-fated attempt to fly around the world.

Surrounding the plane are 14 interactive STEM-inspired exhibit areas and activity stations. Visit them all and you’ll learn about Amelia Earhart of, course, but also some history, culture, science, technology, aviation, engineering, mathematics, and more.

Museum visitors can scroll through digitized images of Earhart’s mechanic logbooks, compare the inner working of airplane engines then and now, learn about celestial navigation, practice packing the plane, and squeeze into the full-scale replica of Muriel’s cockpit.

After listening to recordings of radio interviews with the real Amelia Earhart and watching an uncanny computer-generated Amelia Earhart video, museum visitors can try ‘being’ Amelia Earhart.

Museum admission includes a chance to fly Earhart’s red Lockheed Vega 5B in a virtual reality simulator. And the flight programmed includes the same route and challenges (bad weather, mechanical problems, etc.) Earhart faced during her 15-hour flight on May 20-21, 1932 when became the first woman to fly nonstop and alone across the Atlantic.

The Amelia Earhart Hangar Museum in Atchison, Kansas will have its grand opening on Friday, April 14.

(Read more about the museum in our story on Runway Girl Network).

Bessie Coleman honored with Barbie ‘Inspiring Women Series’ Doll

Mattel, maker of the iconic Barbie doll, has an Inspiring Women series that pays tribute to courageous women with Barbie dolls in their honor.

Chimpanzee expert Dr. Jane Goodall, tennis star Billie Jean King, author Maya Angelou, astronaut Sally Ride and First Lady of Song, Ella Fitzgerald, are among the women who have been honored with dolls in this special Barbie series.

And now Bessie Coleman, the first Black and Native American female aviator, and the first Black person to earn an international pilot’s license, has a Barbie doll in her image as well.

The dolls is sculpted in Coleman’s likeness and wears a traditional olive-green aviator suit, with tall lace-up boots and a “BC”-initialed cap.

To celebrate Coleman’s birthday, on January 26, customers flying on American Airline’s Flight 771 from Dallas to New York received the new doll.

American Airlines also hosted a special program for aviation students at the Ronald E. McNair public school 5 in Brooklyn, New York.

The Bessie Coleman story is impressive and inspiring

Coleman was born in 1892 in Atlanta, Texas, one of 13 children, and moved to Chicago in 1915.

She wanted to earn a pilot’s license, but flight schools in the United States wouldn’t accept her. So she applied to – and was accepted into – a flight school in France. There she she earned her license in June 15, 1921, in just seven months. She went on to take more training to learn the acrobatic stunts, such as walking on an aircraft’s wings, that she became known for.

On September 3, 1922, in Long Island, New York, Coleman made the first public flight by an African American woman in the United States. By 1925 she had become a popular barnstormer, performing acrobatic feats in air shows – and giving lectures – across the United States. Sadly, an aviation accident in 1926 took her life.

Courtesy Smithsonian Institution National Air & Space Museum

In addition to being honored this year with a Barbie Inspiring Women Series doll, Coleman also landed on the newest U.S. quarter. On January 3, 2023, the United States Mint released a quarter featuring pilot Bessie Coleman as a part of the American Women Quarters Program. Coleman’s quarter is marked with the date June 15, 2021, to honor the 100th anniversary of the date she became the first African American woman to earn a pilot’s license.   

Fresh Art at PIE Airport

Two new murals now greet passengers at Florida’s St. Pete–Clearwater International Airport (PIE).

Both murals are visible to passengers arriving and departing from Gates 7-11 and Gate 12.

Leo Gomez’s mural “GO EASY” features a dreamy Tampa Bay sunset, with welcoming colors, bold text, and silhouettes that evoke travel and nature. 

Laura “Miss Crit” Spencer’s mural is inspired by Florida native flowers and is inhabited by a variety of bees, butterflies, and pollinators.

These new murals join the other amenities we love at PIE airport, including a great art collection, the PIE Pups animal therapy program, and the outdoor Bark Parks animal relief areas.

PIE Airport is also a great place to learn some aviation history.

PIE airport’s location on Tampa Bay, north of St. Petersburg lays claim to being the birthplace of commercial air transportation. 

On January 1, 1914, barely a decade after the Wright Brothers’ pioneer flight at Kitty Hawk, the first ticket for air travel was sold by the St. Petersburg-Tampa Airport line to a fare-paying passenger. 

St. Petersburg mayor A.C. Phiel (center in the photo below) paid $400 to be the first passenger on the St. Petersburg Tampa Bay Airport Line. That flight marked the beginning of commercial air transportation. 

Courtesy Courtesy National Air and Space Museum Archives

A replica of the Benoist amphibious airplane flown on that inaugural flight is on display in the PIE baggage claim.

Except where noted, all photos are courtesy PIE Airport.